“If they would have taken action when it was first reported, they would have saved me and all of these other women standing before us today from an aftermath full of pain and agony… I want an apology, we deserve an apology. They should have known.”
The United States Women’s Artistic Gymnastics national team is one of the most successful in the world. Being one of the most successful teams in the world, including gold medal wins in the London and Rio Olympics, the program is also very strict. Furthermore, the US gymnasts program has trained many successful athletes such as Gabby Douglas, who won the All-Around title in London, and Simone Biles, who won four Olympic gold medals.
With the sexual abuse scandal caused by Doctor Larry Nassar, who abused hundreds of female gymnasts, the United States Gymnasts Committee greatly mishandled the situation by ignoring the gymnast’s pleads for help.
Leading up to the sexual abuse scandal, many gymnasts complained about Doctor Larry Nassar, claiming that he sexually abused them during treatments he performed. The abuse of Nassar was first reported in 1997 by multiple gymnasts. However, these claims were ignored. It is heartbreaking to think that this horrific event could have been stopped decades ago if the committee listened to the gymnasts. There were eight times where gymnasts filed complaints towards Nassar before 2016, and each time represented a failed reaction by the US gymnasts committee. Many gymnasts claimed to have their voices silenced. The complaints were disregarded and ignored by the committee. Instead, they listened to Nassar, who claims that all treatments that he performs are necessary for recovery.
The mishandling of athletes is a very common issue in the sports community. Due to the want for winning championships and medals, the well-being and concerns of the athlete are sometimes ignored. The Larry Nassar sexual abuse case is a perfect example of it. The concerns of the gymnasts he abused were ignored and silenced. This is a huge case of mishandling because the committee tried to cover the abuse up instead of helping gymnasts and ensuring their safety.
It should be acknowledged that the mishandling of the gymnasts was not the only factor for the silence of the gymnasts. Nassar claimed his victims by grooming them. He would give the gymnasts presents and be friends with them, building trusting relationships. This made it hard for gymnasts to speak out because many thought that he was actually trying to help. After the sexual abuse scandal blew up, more and more gymnasts came forward.
Eventually, 333 gymnasts spoke out against Nassar. Many gymnasts gave statements at his court case and described the pain and trauma they went through. Even though the mishandling was not the only factor driving victims into silence, the actions of the committee contributed greatly. Despite this, the US gymnastic organization shut down concerns and disregarded allegations, clearly disrespecting the bravery of these young gymnasts.
Now, athletes such as Aly Raisman are dedicating their careers to help change to be established in the US gymnasts organization. She and many other gymnasts want full transparency and communication between the gymnasts and the committee. It was the lack of communication that caused there to be such a big scandal of sexual abuse. The committee’s refusal to heavily investigate the gymnasts’ claims led to the widespread abuse of the athletes without any hope of stopping.
Consequently, the mishandling of the gymnasts by the US gymnasts committee has brought upon many changes. There was a 3 million dollar plan to keep gymnasts safe by including 39 more staff positions and a mandatory chaperone policy. Many previous officials have been fired and replaced. The committee seems to be doing better, but it is not enough. Nothing will change the fact that the committee ignored claims from gymnasts and even helped cover up the abuse.
As a result of this situation, changes have been brought to the committee, many have been fired and plans have been made. This situation could be fixed by having members and staff of the committee that care about the concerns of the gymnasts.
However, documents about the abuse under the previous presidents and members of staff have not been released. This shows the lack of transparency of the organization and indicates that more must be done.
The well-being of athletes should be a priority of sports organizations and concerns of athletes should be heard, instead of being silenced.